Spring has sprung, get that cleaning done!

It’s a given that when the sun starts shining through those windows, you immediately notice all the dust and clutter that has been gather around you over the winter. Yes, that even applies to our technology.  Seems like the dust is in my keyboard, the fingerprints are all over my screens, and … what is that sticky stuff on my phone today!?!?!

Make sure you are using the right products for the right devices to remove, dust, fingerprints, and hiding bacteria and germs (yep, they ARE hiding out on your devices just WAITING to bring back last month’s sniffles.) PopSugar actually had a fun article out back in November called The Easiest Ways to Properly Clean Your Phone. “Neglecting to clean your cell phone is a nasty tech habit to break …(they) have been proven to carry bacteria, germs, even feces.” Eeeewww.  Yep. Pretty gross.  And those of you in schools thought the desks were gross.

Even USA Today posted a great little video on March 21st called 4 ways to declutter your technology for Spring Cleaning.  With tips on cleaning the outside of your devices, they go on to talk about some important things to think about on the INSIDE of you devices as well. Remember the tip you learned about when to finally part ways with clothes in your closet? “If you haven’t opened it in the last 5 years, delete it.”  Best quote, “We promise you. Your resume from 2012 isn’t useful.”  If you are really concerned about deleting it forever (yeah, I get it, I’m one of those people, too) let West Valley Technical Services help you find the best backup solution.

But one of the other topics they hit on, as does OtterBox in Technology Spring Cleaning, isn’t just deleting old files, but backing up photos and videos.  Create a little space so your device can operate more efficiently.  OtterBox also reminds you to get rid of your old devices properly.  Although you may want to go viral with a great video of blowing it up.  Consider instead donating it or recycling it.  Not sure how?  That’s OK.  Your West Valley Technical Services consultant can most certainly help you find the best way to get it out of your storage area.

And once you have gotten rid of the dinosaurs, cracked screens, and tablets that aren’t as good as the case they are in anymore, your WVTS technician can help you find new products to meet those needs.  Or even refurbished ones if you’re looking for something more budget friendly.

Get to work!  Those dust bunnies aren’t gonna hop away on their own.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (Part 16)

Q) How old is too old when it comes to a computer? 

A) Computers aren’t like cars or appliances that are designed to last for decades before being replaced.  And even if a computer does survive years of service, chances are it won’t even support whatever the latest software needs are.  As a general rule of thumb, 5 to 7 years tends to be the average lifespan for computer equipment.  The standard warranty on computers is rarely longer than one year, and the longest we have ever seen is 5 years and even that was only on government purchases.  So if your machine has lasted you 7 years or more, you should be proud of it, but consider purchasing a newer system if it starts to act up.  Chances are, it’s not worth spending money on to repair at that point.  As always, we will point you in the right direction should you reach out to us.

Q) I don’t see anything on my screen at all, but my computer is turned on.  What does that mean?

A) The very first thing we check in cases like this is to make sure the cable that connects the monitor to your computer hasn’t come disconnected for whatever reason.  You’d be surprised how often that is the cause!  If that checks out, you’ll want to make sure the monitor is getting power (another common occurrence.)  If all the connections are solid and everything is getting power, there is a chance that there is a hardware issue with the PC itself.  In those cases, it’s a better idea to reach out to a local PC repair shop or a professional that is willing to come to where the PC is to look at it.  If you are in the Boise, Idaho area, we would be happy to make a quick housecall in a case like this.

Q) How can I print from my mobile device?

A) MObile printing used to be a big hassle, requiring special apps and proprietary printers.  In the last few years, both Apple and Google have made it much easier to print from their devices, however.  All you really need to do is look for printers that support “AirPrint” if you use Apple devices, and/or “Google Cloud Print” if you use Android devices.  Keep in mind that the printer(s) will need to be connected to the same wireless network as your mobile devices in the case of Apple devices.  In the case of Google devices, the printer just needs to have a connection to the Internet and be added to the same Google account that the mobile device uses (or be shared with that account.)  If that sounds a bit too complicated, we can give you a hand setting up either one, too 🙂

How technology improves employee retention

One of the biggest problems facing most organizations, and usually the most expensive, is retaining good employees.  Losing employees means lost productivity.  Hiring new employees costs money to locate, interview, and train them.  The same is true no matter what the industry and sector.

 

You wouldn’t think that the shortage of professional teachers might be caused by losing teachers to more than just age-forced retirement. I mean, teaching is such a great gig, right? (insert sarcastic face)  Teachers do what they do because they love their clients … the kids.  Not because they make lots of money and they are great chances for advancement. According to Stop Driving Teachers Out Of The Classroom — Focus Instead On Keeping Them There  in Forbes, a growing number of teachers are retiring because the work is no longer worth the trade-off of time and resources they are forced to commit. “Constant upheavals in the curriculum, in testing regimes and even the way teachers are expected to teach have resulted in enormous strains on teachers, leaving many to feel they have no option but to leave the profession.”  Although the article takes on a more ‘it’s the government’s fault’ type attitude, it brings a very valid point to light.  Is the technology in the schools the best that district can afford and providing what teachers and student need to be keeping up with the workload and expectations of them?

 

A large number of private sector jobs are also the same. Not all employees are corporate ladder climbers.  They want a stable job, where they feel they are appreciated and compensated commensurate to their output.  When the employee no longer feels that the security of the position, the pay, or the benefits are worth how hard they are having to work, they will choose to move on to other employment if they can.  In addition, hiring and retaining employees new to the workforce might prove difficult if the technology in the office isn’t helping them do their jobs … sometimes even holding them back.

 

Technology may be replacing some jobs (that’s a whole other blog article), but it is supposed to HELP people DO their jobs.  Supplying teachers with training that is appropriate and innovative.  Providing resources that help reduce or eliminate tedious work, clutter, and miscommunication increases productivity and job satisfaction. Providing staff with organizational and productivity tools (and the training they need to use them) might seem like an unnecessary expense when ‘the old way works fine.’ But you may be incurring MORE expense when you are having to look for new employees.

 

When you start planning out this year’s professional conferences to attend and come back with loads of great ideas and things you can be implementing in your organization, remember to give your West Valley Technical Services technician a call to help you make those transitions as smooth as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions (Part 15)

Q) Why does my computer take forever to connect to the internet?

A) It’s actually normal to take a few seconds for a computer to establish a network connection when it first boots up.  If you are having trouble connecting during the course of regular use, however, there may be another issue at play.  If you are on a wireless connection, there are a lot of variables that can affect it.  Interference from other wireless devices in the near vicinity can slow your connection down or even interrupt it, as well as non-computer devices like microwaves or cordless phones in close proximity.  If this is your situation, I’d recommend reaching out to a local IT professional to have them troubleshoot your connection, or if you can, switch over to a wired connection to avoid any potential interference.

Q) Do I need an anti-virus program on my tablet?

A) As a general rule, you shouldn’t, although there has been some malware written for Android devices that you may want to protect yourself from if that’s what you are using.  If you have an iOS device, as long as you don’t jailbreak it, you should be fine without anything.  Our suggestion would be to use “AVAST Mobile Security” if you have an Android device and want that added peace of mind

Q) My laptop battery won’t hold a charge.  What should I do?

A) Batteries are the one component of laptops that the manufacturer knows will stop working at some point, and are typically not covered under warranty as a result.  If you ever encounter a laptop that won’t hold a charge, the first thing to try is to order a replacement battery from Amazon.com by searching for your laptop’s model number.  Most batteries cost between $20-$100, so it’s a fairly cheap repair, and most batteries just have a release switch on the bottom of the laptop to remove them.  Just make sure you turn the laptop off completely before changing the battery!  Don’t put it in standby!  If the battery still won’t charge after replacing it with a new one, then the laptop will need service and you will need to determine if it’s worth it to repair at that point

Classroom and Business Applications of Virtual Reality

The opening line to the article Virtual Reality in the Classroom quotes XQ Super Classrooms and suggests that while the world has gone from simple to simply amazing, classrooms have been ‘frozen in time.’  As the daughter of an Idaho teacher, and parent of two school aged children, I would disagree.  Although resources might limit some districts from supplying the type of classrooms they would dream about, most have made valiant efforts to ‘keep up with the times.’

How many of us had a ‘whiteboard’ you could touch and have it take you to the internet … wait did we have internet back then either?

Virtual reality might seem like a ‘new’ technology.  But it has been around for decades.  How many people remember ‘virtual simulators’ used to train pilots? But the true advancement has gone from taking a technology that was fairly boring and 2 dimensional, to quite literally allowing the user to ‘feel’ like the are part of the scene they are seeing. One of the hottest Christmas presents this year, but one that has many more applications than just gaming and relaxing, is virtual reality, or more specifically, virtual reality headsets or viewers.

But what might that popular Christmas gift be used for outside of personal use? What applications might virtual reality have in the classroom and in business?

It’s being used to train teachers. (Virtual Classrooms: A Vision of the Future of Teacher Training)

Students can not only see historical and geographical sites they are studying, but be immersed in the experience.

Imagine an art class going on a field trip, not to the local museum, but the Louvre Museum

Imagine the possibilities for homeschoolers and students in remote areas!

In business the possibilities are just as exciting.  As mentioned in “6 amazing uses for virtual reality in business” how about training employees by recording complex trainings that allow new employees to be part of the office without walking them around and showing them where everything is.  What about previewing new office locations, job sites, construction projects from miles away. Can you image how this could change real estate for both the seller and buyer?

Imagine the possibilities as more and more applications become available for VR devices.  Many are already being developed. Let West Valley Technical Services help you find the products and services to make virtual reality a true reality in your office.

Frequently Asked Questions (Part 14)

Q) How often should I back up my system?

A) The short answer is every day!  Most backup software is configured to process a backup every evening.  This keeps the backup process from interfering with normal use of the computer (the computer slows down while doing a backup, and that would be pretty inconvenient right in the middle of the work day!)  We recommend using either the built-in Windows backup software, or Veeam Endpoint Protection (which is a free download- connect with us if you’d like a safe link to it.)  Both of which will take full, image-based (meaning the whole computer can be restored, not just individual files), backups of your computer every day.

Q) Why is my cooling fan always running?

A) It’s actually fairly normal for at least one fan to be running all the time on both desktop and laptop computers.  What isn’t normal, however, is one that’s running at really high speed and making a lot of noise.  If that’s what’s happening, there’s a good chance that your machine is overheating for some reason.  If the computer is older (5 years or more) there is a chance that the paste that used to adhere the fan to the main CPU needs to be replaced.  It tends to crystalize over the years and become less efficient, which makes the CPU run hotter, which in turn makes the fan run faster to compensate.  If your computer has a loud fan all the time, we would suggest you take it to a local It professional to have it serviced before something inside the PC gets damaged by overheating.

Q) Modems, Routers, switches, hubs. OK I’m confused

A) All these different pieces of equipment are used to connect multiple computers together in what’s called a network.  A modem or router allows the network of devices in your home or workplace to connect to all the other computers out on the Internet.  Hubs are devices that allow multiple computers in close proximity (like in the same building) to communicate with each other using Ethernet cables, but are a much older product that has since been replaced by switches, which do the exact same thing, but much more efficiently.  Switches allow more devices to talk to each other at much higher speeds.  The only place you are likely to see a hub anymore is for sale at a second-hand store (don’t buy them, by the way)!  A lot of times, the modem you get from your Internet provider will actually have a switch built into it, so the one device will do the job of both a modem/router and a switch at the same time.  Any time you get a modem with multiple network ports on the back of it, that is why.

Happy Tech Year!

An article in EdSurge titled “We Ask Our Kids What They Learn Each Day. Why Don’t We Ask Ourselves?” immediately got me thinking about New Year’s Resolutions and how this applies.

Some don’t like to make resolutions.  They feel it sets them up for failure to set a goal on the chance they won’t make it.  Others enjoy having the chance to start a new year fresh.  What did I tell myself I would do last year and didn’t? What do I need to do this year to make improvements? If you are in business or responsible for the training of minds … I’m guessing you are the type to make new year’s goals.

Maybe it’s read more.

Maybe it’s learning something new.

Maybe spend more time with family and friends.

Maybe it’s to finish a project that was started in 2016.

It might be to use technology more.

It might be to use technology less (which means using it smarter when you are on it).

Setting resolutions isn’t just for personal growth.  Most businesses start the new year with new goals in mind, also.  The budget was probably decided a few months ago.  January sales goals were set before Christmas. And lesson plans in school were tidied up before the bell rang the last day of December. But remember what I said about using technology less/smarter?

How is your technology holding you back?  What obstacles did you face in 2016 that you want to avoid in 2017?  What slowed down productivity?  What affected the security of your information?

Plan ahead when it comes to how technology will affect your organization in 2017.  If you aren’t sure … if you haven’t given it any thought … or if you don’t know about some of the great new advances in technology that could be implemented in your organization, let your West Valley Technical Services technician sit down with you and do a review of your business.  If you know of another business that might have a few new tech goals for 2017, we love referrals, too.

Frequently Asked Questions (Part 13)

Q) Do I really need an anti-virus?

A) If you are using a Windows computer, then it is advisable to utilize an antivirus solution, yes.  They come in two different types: real-time and on-demand.  If you are using Windows 10 or newer, there is already a free Microsoft real-time antivirus built in.  It’s only about 90% effective at catching malware, so you might want to consider another more effective product, however.  Currently, we suggest AVAST free, which is about 98% effective and doesn’t cost anything.  For on-demand scanners (ones you would run only after you’ve been infected because your real-time scanner didn’t catch it) we currently suggest Malwarebytes anti-malware, which is also free.

Q) Am I really supposed to let my laptop battery run all the way down once in a while?

A) This is a carry-over from bygone days when laptop batteries were made of Nickel-Cadmium, which were very prone to developing a “memory” and losing capacity if you didn’t let them discharge every so often.  Fortunately, recent laptops use Lithium Polymer batteries that are far less prone to this, so as a general rule, it’s not really necessary to let them discharge all the way anymore.

Q) Why does each user really need their own log in and password?

A) There is a sliding scale of security versus convenience, and this falls under the category of a minor inconvenience to provide considerable security benefits.  Everyone having their own login allows the computers to isolate individuals’ files and allows IT administrators to know who accessed what resource at what time, as well as control who can have access to any given resource.

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